After John Boehner reiterated his call to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts expiring at the end of the year, the White House once again tried hammering him as an extremist looking to protect the rich at the expense of the middle class. House Democrats will undercut that messaging with their own call to put off tax hikes for the next couple of years. In a letter circulating on Capitol Hill and reviewed by Politico, Blue Dogs and other Democrats tell Nancy Pelosi that this is no time to raise taxes or to extend the uncertainty:
POLITICO has obtained a draft of a letter from rank-and-file lawmakers to Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urging them not to let tax rates rise for Americans at the highest income levels.
“We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short term, to provide families and businesses the certainty required to plan and make sound budget decisions,” the House members write in a letter that was being circulated for signatures on Friday and is expected to be delivered today or Tuesday.
Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Glenn Nye (Virginia), Melissa Bean (Ill.) and Gary Peters (Mich.) drafted the letter and are working to gather support, mostly from the moderate Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions, for at least a temporary extension of the rates for top income earners as well as those in the lower brackets.
This comes at the same time that Boehner’s remarks have stirred controversy — although largely from the absence of context. The media originally reported them as a retreat back to the White House petition. Instead, Boehner said that he would vote to approve a bill that only extended the middle-class portion of the tax cuts if that was all that was offered. Boehner scoffed at the notion that he was holding those tax-cuts extensions hostage, which a moment’s thought would prove correct. Pelosi has a 77-seat majority in the House, and can pass anything Democrats want.
Clearly, some Democrats are now wondering if they want a class war right before the election. That kind of strategy plays well in districts like Pelosi’s, but is falling flat in the rest of the country. Democrats played that card in 2006 and 2008, and after four years of control in Congress, it’s no longer a trump card. Democrats need to find a way to generate growth, and the only way to do that is to get people with capital to put it to work — which the coming tax hikes will prevent.
The Obama administration is doing its best to portray Boehner as an extremist. Unfortunately for Obama, his own party shows that it’s the White House on the extreme, pushing tax hikes in the middle of an economic stall. It also points to a bigger problem with the strategy, which is that punching down below one’s weight is never a good idea. Instead of marginalizing Boehner, the White House is practically lending him the bully pulpit by putting Boehner at the same level as the President. That helps the GOP, because most of the electorate understands that tax hikes will be disastrous for the economy — and Obama doesn’t exactly have a track record of success that gives him the benefit of the doubt.